Our Voice: Participation needed at Hanford park meeting

When it was announced in 2014 that the Manhattan Project National Historical Park was finally going to become a reality, there was rejoicing in the Tri-Cities.

But many others around the country — and even in our own state — questioned why a site that helped create a nuclear bomb would be turned into an attraction for visitors.

People have strong and varied opinions about the history and mission of Hanford, as we all know. That’s why it will be imperative the park provide a balanced account of what led to the development of the atomic bomb, as well as its horrific consequences.

This Thursday will be the first chance for our community to have its say on the themes that should be presented at the historical park. The Department of Energy and the National Park Service are holding a public open hous from 5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. Thursday in the gallery of the Richland Public Library. The intent is to provide Tri-Citians the chance to provide ideas, suggest stories and comment on what Hanford means to the region.

We hope there will be a good turnout.

The new park will tell the story of the development of the atomic bomb during World War II, but there are so many other topics that could be included. Science and engineering achievements, for example, are a fascinating part of the story. The secrecy surrounding the project, how the workers lived, and the attitudes of that era during the war are also interesting.

And then, of course, the park also must include the terrible loss of life and destruction that was caused when the nuclear bombs were dropped over Japan.

The mayors of Hiroshima and Nagasaki reportedly have reservations about the national park and are concerned that some exhibits might possibly support the idea that the bombings were justified. They are providing artifacts and photos for the park to demonstrate the damage the bombings caused on those two cities.

Their perspective is a critical piece to the story, and we are glad that Japanese officials have been contacted to contribute. But the devastating result of the bombings are not the whole story, and that’s why our community must be involved in the telling of it.

There are those — who while they acknowledge the awfulness of the bombings to Japan — firmly believe it was necessary to end the war and save American lives. These folks also tend to agree with President Harry Truman’s statement that the bomb “was the greatest achievement of organized science in history.”

DOE and national park officials have a responsibility to try to tell the story of Hanford as accurately and as thoroughly as possible.

So far, those involved in developing the park have said they will strive to provide a “critical reflection” of the Manhattan Project. That sounds like a good approach, but in order to do that, they will need participation and information from the Tri-Cities.

Tracy Atkins, project manager for the new park, said there will be many opportunities for the public to provide input in the next few years.

But we think it would be great if Tri-Citians got involved in the process right away. That means showing up Thursday to the public session on the issue.